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Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2007

German volunteers try to make amends in Israel

April 15, 2007

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— Felix Muller, 20, was born long after the Holocaust ended, but that doesn't diminish his sense of obligation to the victims.

"As a German, it's part of my history whether I want it or not," Muller said.

Last summer, he and two dozen other German volunteers arrived in Israel for a year of service through a group called Ot Hakapara, Hebrew for "Sign of Atonement," working at libraries, nursing homes and community centers.

Tonight, they will join Israelis in observing the annual Holocaust remembrance day, attending the official ceremony at Yad Vashem - Israel's Holocaust memorial and museum - and speaking with Jewish students about the Nazis' crimes.

Muller says his time in Israel has brought him a number of powerful experiences.

At the nursing home where he volunteers, he said, a 90-year-old woman ignored him for weeks, until one day she struck up a conversation with him - in German.

Ot Hakapara was founded in 1958 by German Protestants who believed their church had not done enough to stop the Holocaust, Katharina Vonmuster, the group's executive director, told The Associated Press. Each year, the group sends about 180 volunteers to help the needy in Israel and other countries affected by World War II, she said.

The remembrance day for the six million Jews killed by the Nazis lasts from sundown today to sundown Monday.

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